Toddler art activities: modelling clay 

We have recently introduced Frida to modelling clay! I have such fond memories of using modelling clay (I think we called it plasticine?) as a child, and so was really looking forward to getting some out to use with Frida. 

Although I could have made a batch of playdough and mixed up all different colours, I thought it would be simpler and nicer (and actually a bit cheaper than buying loads of food colouring!) to buy some ready-made modelling clay. 

I went for this stuff by Okonorm as it’s non-toxic and gorgeously bright soft clay that doesn’t dry out at all, despite being stored in open air. 

Although the primary benefit to modelling is that it’s fun, playing with materials like clay, dough and bees wax is so good for young children – the pinching, patting, kneading and rolling all help to build up the muscles and fine motor coordination they will need for holding a pencil and writing. 

I also find it’s a calming activity that we can do together as a family. There’s something so soothing about using modelling clay to create simple figures, even as adults. A few days ago the three of us sat down and modelled and chatted for a while before supper, and it was so lovely to create and play together in that way. And of course, modelling encourages imagination and creativity. 

Frida is still too young to be able to make anything realistic, so what I’ve found she really enjoys is if I make a simple figure or two (say, a cat and a mouse), and then she can make them “food” and “blankets” and so on. This stops her getting frustrated at her own technical limitations whilst allowing her to create purposeful things to use in her play. We have also made simple flowers together, and Frida is getting better at “fixing” models when they break, for example sticking an errant ear back onto a dog! 

This is obviously an approach tailored to Frida’s personality – other toddlers may prefer parents to leave them to it, but Frida definitely prefers us to be involved. 

Do you use modelling clay with your toddler? What’s your favourite way to use it? 

Birthday gifts, age two

Frida will be turning two tomorrow! It feels very strange. On the one hand, I can’t quite believe that I’ve been a mother for two whole years already. Two! It doesn’t feel very long ago at all that we first met Frida and instantly fell head-over-heels in love with her. On the other hand, she seems at times so much older than she is, so much so that it feels bizarre that she isn’t already two.

I have really enjoyed selecting gifts for Frida this year, choosing things she will (I hope) love and want to play with again and again. 

Frida’s biggest focus at the moment is on imaginative play. She plays for hours with her animals and people and Grimms toys, quietly narrating to herself as she plays. Following her lead, therefore, I’ve chosen toys for imaginative play over anything else. 

For her birthday we have bought her: 

  • Grimms Bauhaus mobile home (available here) – Frida loves setting up pretend homes for her figures and animals, so this was a natural choice to extend her play. It’s unbelievably lovely in real life. We love Grimms toys – the play possibilities are endless. 
  • Grimms dolls house crib and toilet (available here) – I thought these would complement the mobile home furniture well. Frida is very interested in toilets at the moment! Also pictured is a Grimms bed which my sister in law bought for her, I thought it made sense to present these together to her. 
  • Grimms doll and baby (available here) – Frida has some figures already, but they were very cheap and it shows. The quality of these is superb and I know she will love playing with them.
  • Pink playsilk (available here) – as a carpet / backdrop for the mobile home.
  • Home by Carson Ellis (available here) – a beautiful book which I am sure she will enjoy reading. 

  • Holztiger bunnies and frog (available here) – Frida especially enjoys rabbits at the moment following the Beatrix Potter books, so I thought she would enjoy a couple more. She doesn’t have a frog and I think she’ll like it. She has a lot of Holztiger animals already and they are played with multiple times a day. 
  • Wooden Gruffalo toy (available here) – this was the only gift Frida asked for, after seeing a drawing of a child in a book holding a toy Gruffalo. I’m not a big fan of “character” toys, but she repeatedly told me she would like one, and this figure is ethically made from natural materials.
  • Grimms wave stacker (available here) – Frida has a cave stacker which she uses a lot for imaginative play, and I thought this would be a nice addition for sea scenes.

I will share some photos of our celebrations over the coming days soon. For now, wish me luck as I try to compose myself ahead of tomorrow… 

Celebrating spring 

Ok, so I know that technically spring does not start for another twenty days, but I am impatient and I can’t wait that long! Our winter shelf has had me itching for change since the shoots and flowers of early spring started to appear, and our focus outside has shifted from frost and pinecones to buds and bulbs.

I wanted to share with you a few of the ways in which we will be celebrating spring and using it as inspiration for our activities.

Every season I update this shelf in Frida’s room. Because we have a (very active and inquisitive!) cat, we can’t set up a proper nature table, so this shelf is my compromise.

On Frida’s spring shelf I have put:

We have already spent the last few weeks looking at crocuses, daffodils, blossom, and the buds which are starting to appear on the trees. Although winter is still here (and at times it really feels like it!), spring proper is definitely not far away.

To celebrate spring over the next few weeks and months we will be:

  • Reading seasonal books together.  I’ve put away our winter books and swapped in a few spring ones. I’ll keep adding to our collection though so I would love your recommendations!
  • Going outside, playing outside, eating outside. Puddle jumping, mud squelching, water splashing. Enjoying the flowers that are starting to pop up, continuing our regular trips to the park to see what has sprung up since our last visit a few days ago, eagerly watching as new flowers peek through each time we visit. Going outside a lot is something we do all year round but in spring this is especially magical.
  • Talking of flowers, I’d quite like to do some flower-pressing with Frida, and I’m planning on setting up some simple flower arranging for her too as she’s expressed an interest in doing so.
  • Using these fantastic Usborne flower cards to expand Frida’s knowledge and vocabulary around flowers. I’ve only just given them to her and they are already proving to be a hit.
  • Doing some simple gardening. Planting a few bulbs and planting a few seeds together, so Frida can learn first-hand how plants grow. This book by Gerda Muller looks like it will be a wonderful companion.
  • Visiting city farms more regularly again. The city farms tend to be quieter over the winter (and the ones near us close their cafes which I find very offputting) but spring is a perfect time to visit farms. Hopefully Frida will see some chicks!
  • Dipping for frogspawn, and learning about the frog life cycle.
  • Making and giving May Day posies.
  • Celebrating Frida’s second birthday in April, and my 29th in May.
  • Painting eggs.
  • Easter baking. Buns, breads. Yum.
  • Visiting bluebell woods as a family, and generally planning lots of outdoor day trips to some of the beautiful nature reserves, woods, forests, and outdoor spaces we are lucky to live near.

Whilst Frida is still young I think we will be going by calendar seasons as it makes it a bit easier for her to remember them.

I’m sure I will add lots to this list over the coming weeks, and I’ve just ordered this brilliant looking book which I am certain will provide lots of inspiration for years to come! How are you planning on celebrating spring?

Seasonal shelf: Winter

Happy December!

I have updated Frida’s seasonal shelf in her bedroom, and wanted to share it with you. Although I know it’s not technically winter yet from a meteorological perspective, if we go by the calendar I think it’s justified! 

The books on her winter shelf are: 

  • The Snowman;
  • Winter (Gerda Muller);
  • Robin’s Winter Song (Suzanne Barton);
  • The Winter Hedgehog (Ann and Reg Cartwright);
  • Winter (from the Shirley Hughes Nursery Collection – everyone should own this!); and 
  • Around The Year (pictured open, Elsa Bekow). 

I’ve decorated with:

  • a playsilk;
  • a Holztiger hedgehog and part of a Grimm’s stacking cave;
  • some locally foraged holly;
  • two handmade felt and wool gnomes; 
  • a Grimm’s gnome decoration;
  • pinecones;
  • a tea light holder;
  • a Holztiger evergreen tree and robin; 
  • a skiing figure and old Christmas tree decoration from Tiger; and
  • a tiny wooden house from my childhood (!)

I think there’s something nice about having some books for each season. A lot of Frida’s favourite books are about nature, and also have a strong seasonal element. 

We haven’t put up any other festive decorations in the house yet. Our family is not religious, but we will be lighting candles for Chanukah and putting up a (small, fake – oh the perils of kitten ownership!) Christmas tree, and giving gifts to Frida and our families. I’ve ordered some books on both of these festivals for Frida which I’ll share with you when they arrive. 

Do you try and discuss the seasons with your child? What are your favourite winter books and traditions?

Toddler craft: making a jar lantern 

Last week at Frida’s playgroup we made a jar lantern together, and it was such a lovely and simple craft to do that I wanted to encourage you to have a go! 

To make the simplest jar lantern, all you need is: 

  • a clean jar;
  • some tissue paper; 
  • some clear drying (child safe!) glue; and
  • a tea light candle. 

Tear your tissue paper before you begin sticking as it’s very hard to do once you have sticky fingers! Tearing paper is a great activity in itself for toddlers, as it helps to build their fine motor skills. You could even present this as a separate activity then keep the torn pieces ready to make your jar.

Once your paper is ready, use liberal amounts of clear glue to cover the jar, and demonstrate sticking the paper onto the jar. Then your toddler is good to go! It’s good to leave a layer of glue on the top once all the paper is stuck down to leave a nice shiny finish.

You could also provide glitter, sequins, or paper and scissors to cut out shapes (for older children). I’m really keen to make some pressed-leaf jar lanterns with Frida before Autumn is out too. 

We were supposed to be going on a lantern walk this evening with Frida’s playgroup, but she’s still not feeling 100 per cent better so we decided not to go. 

It will instead sit on our dining table – just as I think it’s important for Frida to have her paintings and drawings displayed, I also think it’s lovely for her to have something she helped make take pride of place on the table. 

A few of my favourite blogs 

I love reading blogs. I don’t get as much time to read books as I would like, and I find that a good blog post fills my need for nourishing, thought-provoking content.

I wanted to share just a few of my favourites with you. Some I’ve been reading for years, and some are recent finds, but all of them are warm, inspiring, and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Montessori blogs… 

How We Montessori – Simply amazing. Every parent should read this incredible blog, packed with ideas, inspiration, and love. Kylie is a wonder-woman, and I am sure that her blog has been a valued and beloved resource for thousands of families.

The Kavanaugh Report – A brilliant Montessori blog. Nicole writes with such warmth about her Montessori family life, and her blog is bursting with ideas.

The Montessori Notebook – I love Simone’s blog, which often focuses on the parenting side of Montessori. She has a brilliant newsletter which I would encourage you all to sign up to!

Three Minute Montessori – Another blog that I find so inspiring. Expect beautiful set-ups, clever ideas for activities, and a real focus on watching and following the child.

…and the rest 

Lulastic and the Hippyshake – I am a total Lucy fan-girl. I mean, who wouldn’t be? She writes brilliant kick-ass pieces about feminism, attachment parenting, motherhood, living in a yurt, unschooling, green living, and natural beauty. A must read.

Darling Buds of Me – Waldorf inspired beauty. Reading Lisa’s heartfelt words feels like having a chat with a friend.

Seeds and Stitches – I’ve been reading Hannah’s wonderful blog for years now. She writes about embracing the seasons, parenting, styling the home, and much more.

Happy Whimsical Hearts – A truly beautiful look into a Waldorf home. I discovered Kelly’s blog on Instagram and it was love at first double-tap.

Magnesium Blue – I always need to set a good chunk of time aside if I’m going to read Kirsten’s blog. Every time I check in I feel pulled into her life with her two daughters and her husband, she writes with such character. 

Happiness is Here – A passionate and unapologetic blog focusing on unschooling and gentle parenting. Some of Sara’s posts make me want to shout “hell yeah!” as I read them. 

I would love to hear about your favourite blogs – who inspires you? Who should I be following?